Stress. It can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. It raises cortisol and causes everything from headaches to overeating. But, if you thought stress was bad, burnout is worse. And avoiding it may be harder than imagined; especially for parents in today’s world.
If you are feeling flatlined, exhausted, are having trouble focusing, and completing the smallest task is overwhelming, you may be experiencing burnout. Or, you are at a tipping-point. Parents today are literally being pulled in a million different directions, both mentally and physically. Picking up groceries, haircuts for kids, planning meals, trying to get kid-one to soccer at the same time kid-two has dance, keeping doctor’s appointments, maintaining playdates, fixing the washer again, hosting BBQ’s, checking in with the teachers, remembering to shower, remembering to bathe the kids, reading bedtime books, doing homework, packing lunches, buying new clothes, saving time to sit down and talk to your teenager, making meetings, plays, and more. The list is never-ending. It’s the song, “that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends…” And, it’s almost impossible to clear the noise.
Parents today are excessively stressed. We feel the pressure to be perfect, and to keep up with the pace life has set. Some of the most put-together parents are experiencing burnout. We are supposed to be excited about seeing “Johnny” play his baseball game, rather than emotionally absent. We are supposed to have patience with our 4 year old who’s struggling to put on their shoes, rather than irrationally frustrated. We are supposed to want to bake cookies with the kids rather than turning it into a chore or finding something “more important” to-do. This is burnout and it can come out of no-where, because when you are always running at 100 miles an hour, you eventually run out of gas! Sadly, when we burnout, we don’t have the fuel to get back up and resume the race. And then, what good are you to your family?
Symptoms of burnout are both mental and physical and include the inability to recover from the common cold, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, irritability, paranoia, heightened emotional responses, gastrointestinal issues, withdraw, and even substance abuse. It is avoidable though, and awareness is crucial. Here are 10 ways to avoid burnout for parents in this fast-paced world we live in:
1. Turn to Faith
God is good and prayer is powerful. Moreover, praying forces us to slow down and be present; helping to avoid burnout. Giving your worries to God, and praying over your parenting, will bring clarity of the heart and mind. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” 1 Matthew 6:34
Don’t burn the candle at both ends. When we overschedule we are beckoning burnout. Rather than life setting the pace, you set the pace. Slow it down and say, “no”. It’s ok to cancel an outing or event and spend the evening snuggled on the couch with your kids. It really is. Family time is priceless. If you look at your schedule and don’t have a blank day on there, make one. Another idea is to space out your routines. For example, plan doctor’s appointments at certain times of the year and don’t deviate if you can manage. The kids will know the expectations and you won’t feel as rushed when they pop up. Additionally, social experiences are great for your kiddos, but they don’t need them all the time. Set a social schedule where you monitor social outings. They will be more meaningful when not as often.
3. Find Balance
Prioritize your relationship with your children over their schedules. Your relationship is more important than being a taxi. The paradox of balance is that the more we pursue it, the more things seem to fall apart. Our worries make us worry more. But, if we focus on emotional relationships rather than keeping the schedule to avoid controversy, we can achieve balance. The choice between what you want to do and what you have to do can seem relentless because of societal expectations. But allowing things to fall into place naturally and seeking introspectiveness can help uncover what is out of balance.
4. Don’t Give Up, Rest Instead
If you get tired, learn to rest but not to quit. Exhaustion is an animal that feeds on determination. In order to keep going and maintain a lifestyle that is healthy for you and your family, you have to rest. Sleep; make your kids sleep. Set bed times and a day to sleep in. Meditate; assist them in meditation. Teach them breathing techniques and how to be comfortable in silence. Relax; help them to relax. Draw them a bath and educate them on the benefits of Epsom salts and tea. Don’t delete, just hit pause and teach them to do the same. The benefit of this rest is follow through and perseverance.
Contrasting rest is exercise. Again, finding a balance between the two is invaluable. It’s a lifelong skill to sustained heath and only a squat away! Try exercising by playing with your children; enhancing your connection and lowering stress at the same time. Win. Win. Building muscle while building relationship, leading to happier children and parents.
6. Be Emotionally Present
What do we want our children to see? Why are we rushing? Who are we trying to impress? If we practice mindfulness, then we are practicing a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. When we are mindful, we are not reactive or overwhelmed. We are a sponge soaking up the moment with our kids.
7. Establish “Time” Boundaries
From childhood, we often feel an obligation to “grin and bear it” in order to make others more comfortable. A lot of times, this civility came at the expense of our own suffering. There is a fear in setting boundaries because we have been conditioned to not offend. Boundaries can always be set in a courteous fashion and others should respect them, especially when it comes to our time and avoiding burnout. So, when the persistent invitation to make plans, or say “yes” to make others happy presents itself, set a boundary and say “no”. Or, put a pin in it for now.
8. Set Realistic Expectations
Can we really be at two places at once? No. Is making that yummy Pinterest dinner after a day of rushing going to happen? No. So, don’t push it. Your kids will be fine with grilled cheese. Setting self-expectations before you set familial-expectations can present clarity, direction, and responsibility. Giving yourself time and grace will allow you to accomplish your to-do list, without experiencing burnout.
9. Find Reliable Support
This is tricky for those of us who are used to being independent, or struggle with trust. Sometimes, though, if the “village” is trustworthy, the help is precious. Many hands make light work, and an extra driver can free the schedule. So, if you are in a jam, ask for help.
10. Set Yourself and Your Spouse as a Priority
This is here as the last tip to avoid burnout so that it is clear and emphasized. It is perhaps the most important, besides prayer. Let us refer to John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Life goes by so fast, and when you don’t set yourself and your spouse as a priority, you are disobeying God’s wishes. It’s that simple. Take time for yourself and your spouse, so when life throws you a curve ball you are equipped to hit them out of the park!
Don’t let the fast pace of life harm your health, rather choose not to be hurried. Burnout is when stress in unrelenting. Avoid it at all costs. Especially, during this Holiday Season, focus on family, and be present. Slow down and clear that schedule to take time for yourself and your spouse. After all, part of parenting is being proactive so that when the unforeseen happens, you are equipped to handle it.
Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.